Through its Adopt-A-School program, the Department of Education hopes to improve the condition of public schools by raising funds from the private sector. Since its inception in 1998, it has already attracted 300 donors generating almost seven billion pesos in pledges, commitments, and actual contributions which benefited around 22,000 public schools nationwide. On the other hand, this program is a clear proof of the state abandonment of Philippine education. Its conceptualization signals two things: the government’s unwillingness to spend more on education; and the ascendancy of the neoliberal dogma. This is further exemplified by the decision of the government to gradually increase the role of the private sector in managing the country’s education system. Since then, cash-strapped public schools have been practically begging for crumbs from the state and if funds remain insufficient, they can dream of being “adopted” by philanthropists who need tax incentives.
School donors receive tax incentives of up to 150 percent for their contributions. Furthermore, the DepEd reminds prospective donors that participating in the Adopt-A-School program will “strengthen (their) corporate image and goodwill within the school community.” Enhancing the public image of a company is essential especially if the long-term motive is to influence the innocent minds and spending habits of students. It is no surprise that the big school donors are also big businesses whose operations and profitability depend heavily on the young consumer market. For example:
– Bright Minds Read of McDonalds Charities involving the distribution of donated books to libraries, production of workbooks and learning kits in select Metro Manila elementary schools. Intended beneficiaries are Grade 1-3 students. Cost: P9,300 per school
– Gearing-up Internet Literacy and Access for Students of Ayala Foundation targeting 5,443 public high schools. The project aims to establish internet laboratories. Cost: P125,000 per school
– Intel Teach to the future program. Intel Philippines Manufacturing Inc. sponsors the integration of the use of computers into the existing curriculum. Cost: P5,000 per teacher
– ETV package. ABS-CBN ETV programs have been converted into DVD format for classroom distribution and utilization. Cost: P55,000 per school
– Txt2teach Project for Grade V and VI science classes. Project leader is Ayala Foundation while the coordinators are Globe Telecom, PMSI-Dream Broadcasting, Chikka Asia.
– Little Red Schoolhouse in partnership with Coca Cola Foundation. The goal is to construct a school building with three classrooms. Cost: P1,421,626 per school
– “Send-a-Child-to-School” Program of DepEd and Petron Foundation for Grade I-VI students. Cost: P5,000 per pupil
The Adopt-A-School program boosts the profitability of these companies by giving them the “prerogative of identifying the school of its choice, as well as the area and geographic location where it wishes to place its support.” This allows donors like McDonalds to choose schools which are located near their company outlets.
How can Intel recoup its school investments? Students and teachers who were taught how to maximize computers in the classrooms will most likely prefer the Intel brand when they buy computers in the future.
Coke’s ‘little red schoolhouse’ is an indirect reference to the color of its primary product. Petron’s scholarship bonanza obscures the company’s reputation of being a gang leader of an oil cartel. ABS-CBN’s ETV package expands the TV network’s viewership, especially among the young.
Globally, the Txt2teach Project is known as BridgeIT. But by using the term Txt2teach in the local setting, it risks promoting the wrong idea that IT is limited to texting. But this is a non-issue for schools and the government which are desperate for funds. It is enough that “texting” companies like Globe and Chikka have agreed to become school donors. Even for educational institutions, beggars can’t be choosers.
There is always a battle to control the content of schooling. Public debates are often focused on the official curriculum. But scholars have been asserting that the impact of the ‘hidden curriculum’ on the thinking of students is equally powerful. The official curriculum teaches students that the cost of two satellite dishes for a cable subscription is P225,000. This allows them to watch Knowledge Channel. The hidden curriculum, on the other hand, teaches students that the satellite dish donor belongs to ‘the good guys’; and the TV cable symbolized by the Knowledge Channel is associated with intelligent programming.
‘Adopting’ a school, therefore, is a wise business strategy since it improves the social standing of companies while raising their profit margins. Companies are now marketing and selling their products inside schools and more importantly, they are able to introduce their business philosophies to a special and vital segment of the population. When the government abdicated its duty to provide accessible education for all, it ushered the creepy ‘invasion’ of schools by companies which seek to exploit the financial woes of public schools. Despite the claim that the Adopt-A-School program inspires volunteerism, its real legacy is to legitimize the commercialization of public education in the country.
The Adopt-A-School model is a preview of the Public-Private-Partnership mantra of the new government. President Aquino’s radical solution to the education crisis is to expand the scope of the Adopt-A-School program. This translates into reduced government subsidies and greater intervention of big business in the schooling system. If K12 is to be implemented, it means students and teachers will be hostaged for 12 years by big business school donors. As Big Business continues to infuse more capital into education, it will acquire greater hegemony in asserting the direction of Philippine education. Business will dictate the future of the education sector. Business perspectives will dominate the academe. This will weaken the democratic potential of schooling to empower the bosses.